22-Jun-2016 Source: AHS
On Friday, June 17, 2016, AHS International unveiled a marker at the location of the development and production of the tandem rotor helicopter in Springfield, Pennsylvania. The site’s selection had been previously announced as the fifth AHS International Vertical Flight Heritage Site. The Vertical Flight Heritage Sites program is intended to recognize and help preserve locations with the most noteworthy and significant contributions made in both the theory and practice of helicopter and other VTOL aircraft technology. The marker reads:
AHS International Vertical Flight Heritage Site
Piasecki/Vertol/Boeing “Morton” Site
On this site, Frank Piasecki and the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation developed the world’s first production tandem rotor helicopters in 1947, giving birth to what later became the Boeing Philadelphia site in nearby Ridley Township, as well as Piasecki Aircraft Corporation’s Essington facility.
The tandem rotor helicopter has demonstrated enduring design and utility, with the CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-47 Chinook continuing in service for more than 50 years and improved versions of the Chinook manufactured well into the 21st century.
This site, which was then known as Morton, Pennsylvania, was the headquarters for Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, then the Vertol Aircraft Corporation and Boeing Helicopters Vertol Division, before Boeing consolidated its work in Ridley Park in 1971. This is where the tandem rotor helicopter was matured and produced for a quarter century, with nearly 2,000 aircraft passing down the assembly line here.
The first American tandem rotor helicopter didn’t fly right here. But this is where the tandem quickly matured from being an experimental design to a mainstay of rotary-wing transportation for the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and even the Air Force, as well as militaries around the world, and even civilian helicopter airlines and utility operators. Here is where Frank Piasecki’s genius and tenacity was matured into an incredible product that has changed the world.
70 years ago, a small but rapidly growing Piasecki Helicopter — then at nearby Sharon Hill with 5 flight test vehicles and running out of room to test them — broke ground for a new site in summer 1946, here on Woodland Avenue. The airfield taxi strip was behind the BJ’s Tire Center where the parking lot is today. Right beside where the plaque stands is the concrete slab for the old guard shack, and looking down on it is Frank Piasecki’s office on the second floor.
On this site, starting when they moved in during March 1947, Piasecki Helicopter developed its tandem rotor helicopters, the XHRPX, becoming the HRP-1 Rescuer, the HUP Retriever and the H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee. As Vertol, the company continued development of the tandem rotor helicopter, resulting in what would become the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight (or Phrog) and the CH-47 Chinook.
Advanced versions of the Chinook are still development today, and the US Army is planning to continue operating the CH-47 until the year 2060, a century after the Chinook first flew. What an incredible legacy that this site has given to the world.